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Brian’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 28 Feb 2007

Location: Ulaanbataar, Mongolia

MapThe rail spurs in China are not as wide as the 1.5m rail in Mongolia and Russia. At the border of China and Mongolia all the cars had to be detached and each one was raised up on a crane so they could switch the bogies to accommodate the larger width. It's an interesting event to watch. Other than that there isn't much to discuss about a train going through a desert.

Ulaanbataar is a cool little city but the real beauty of Mongolia is out in its countryside. Beau and I teamed up with a couple of other guys and headed out into the national park to spend the night in a ger and do some horseback riding. A ger is a glorified tent and actually did a pretty good job keep us warm when it was -29C outside (Ger -> Inside the ger was either 40C or 5C. When thye put wood in the stove the inside turned into a sauna...when the wood ran out it immediately turned very cold. I tried to explain the idea of rationing the wood via charades but I'm pretty sure my flailing just led to more confusion so we just took the wood from him.

Horseback riding was more like pony riding. I was taller than my 'horse.' It honestly looked a lot more like a donkey (be sure to email me your 'jackass on the jackass' jokes asap!). The horses were anything but excited to go walking for two hours in the -5C snow with a 180lb westerner on their backs. And considering I'm pretty sure I could beat my horse in a race I didn't blame them. They looked pretty malnurished and generally apathetic. However, the horse I was riding had a pretty funny personality. The entire way out my horse would lag behind or try to turn around and routinely had to be 'encouraged' to catch up by our heavy-handed horse-walloper. The horses know the trail and they know when it's time to go home. When we hit a certain spot on the trail my slow, heavy-footed, even boardline comatose horse stopped, turned 180 degrees and jumped into a full gallop towards the setting sun. My toes were numb and it was only getting colder as the sun dropped so I wasn't gonna turn him around. My horse was a good 100 feet in the lead the rest of the way home. The mere thought of heading home had given this horse a shot of life. I was happy for him.

As night fell the only thing left to do in the ger was play cards and drink Mongolian vodka. Our hosts had their own ger with a satellite dish. I imagine it can get pretty lonely spending all your time in a ger in the middle of nowhere. But Ghengis Khan, the former leader and national hero of Mongolia probably never had a moment alone in his ger. He apparently fathered more children than any other human being on earth. Even if Wilt the Stilt had been a fecundator instead of just a copulate-or he still would not have beaten Ghengis Khan. Rumor has it that 1 in 6 mongoloids (thats basically Mongols, Manchus, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Annamese, Siamese, Burmese, and Tibetans) have direct lineage to Ghengis. I thought my family was big!

Next stop Irkutsk, Russia and Lake Baikal.